Tag Archives: fitness strategy

Your Next Snow Day Workout: Fun + Fitness

Snowmaggedon 2015

“Do you want to build a snowmaaa…er, womaaaan?”

“A snowstorm of historic proportions…” says any NJ weather forecaster on 1/26/15. As we experience the first major northeastern US snowstorm of 2015 (so named “Juno” – not just a great movie), I’m reminded that not being able to drive to the gym or to your favorite training center is no excuse for not getting in a great purposeful workout. While practicing proper technique and staying true to proven training principles, you can be very creative with how you get stronger. Thus, I present to you the “Snowmageddon Snow Day Workout.” *Disclaimer:  Always wear proper attire when outside in cold weather/snow and remember to hydrate before, during, and after strenuous activity outside!

  • Dynamic Warm Up (10 minutes)

With any proper workout or training session, a solid dynamic warm up is crucial.  With my warm-ups, I follow this sequence: activation (“waking up” the stabilizing mechanisms of the body) –> mobilization (controlled simple movements to improve ROM) –> dynamic movement preperation (purposeful controlled multi-joint movements that stabilize, mobilize, and strengthen) –> build up (fast, plyometric movements).  Check out this blog for more on the science behind my warm-up approach.  Before throwing on your winter gear and heading outside, try out this sequence.  Perform in socks (unless a medical condition warrants shoes for support):

  1.  Push-up plank with alternating leg lift, slowly x 10 each side. Don’t spill that “hot cocoa” you visualize sitting on your back!
  2. Side plank (on knees = level 1, straight leg = level 2) with upper body rotation.  Starting in the side plank position, reach underneath you with your upper arm (rotating forward towards the floor) then return to starting position with your upper hand reaching to the sky.  2 sets of 5 on each side
  3. Marching bridges. Lying on your back with your arms “under arrest”, heels on the floor, and knees bent to 90 degrees, press into the floor through your heels and lift your butt until there is a straight line from shoulder through to your knee. Once here, alternate lifting your knee towards your chest without your butt dropping. 10 marches each side.
  4. Floor waxing. In push-up position and with your hands on your winter gloves/mittens, alternate sliding your hand on your glove on the floor directly out to the side about 12″ and back to starting position. Minimize any movement other than your arm.  Perform 10 each side, alternating.  For less friction (and cleaner floors), place a towel between your hand and the floor.
  5. Standing knee hugs. Standing as tall as you can, pull your right knee towards your chest followed by pulling your right shin across your body (without letting go of your knee), then return your foot to the floor. Change sides. Repeat 10x each side.
  6. Touchdowns. Starting with your hands in front of you as if holding a box, extend your arms upward over your head (thumbs pointing backwards).  Signify 10 touchdowns, Ed Hochuli-style. 
  7. Back scratchers. Alternate reaching your hands behind your back (right reaching over top, left reaching underneath) as far as you can, 10x each side.
  8. Squats with reaches.  Drop into a squat, and at the bottom of your squat reach up and out (thumb leading the way) to the right, rotating back as far as you can without your legs moving.  Your eyes should follow your hand. Return to center and stand up. Repeat x 5 reaches each side (10 squats total).
  9. Toy soldiers (in place) into superhero: With your arms extended in front of you, alternate lifting a straight leg forward as far as you can while keeping your sock flat on the floor, followed by swinging that same leg behind you until you are doing your best superman/woman impression on one leg. 10 each side.
  10. Jog in place for 30 seconds, building tempo as you go.
  11. Put on your snow gear!
  • Shoveling

First and foremost, you have to create your training area. Grab your shovel and, using proper shoveling technique (squat and lift, NOT bend and lift), clear a 10 yard x 2 yard runway. Try to toss all of the snow you are moving onto 1 pile. Every 3 scoops switch sides (you too can be an ambidextrous shoveler!). When finished, leave the shovel off to the side

  • Giant set #1 (repeat 3x:) A “giant set” refers to 3 exercises grouped together.  In otherwords, you’ll do #1 through #3 then return to #1)
    • Snowman Squats holding shovel overhead x 10. Keep those boots parallel and flat on the ground.
    • Polar bear crawl. Crawl slow and controlled on your hands and feet (knees not touching ground, directly below your hips to start) while not spilling the imaginary hot cocoa sitting on your low back (you spill it and there’s nothing warm to drink when you’re done). Crawl forward 10 yards and backwards 10 yards
    • Snow angels x 15. Using slow movements, aim for symmetry, good posture, and try to stand up without messing up your beautiful creation. Yes, you have to pick a different snow spot each set.
  • Giant set #2 (x3)
    • Snowy split squats. Right leg forward, front boot remains flat on the ground as you drop your left knee underneath you until almost touching the ground. 10 each side. To increase resistance, hold a bag of ice melt or a child.
    • Sideways polar bear crawl.  Just like above in giant set #1, but you crawl sidways to the right for 10 yards, the back to the left for 10 yards. Second time through go left first.  3rd time through start to the easier side.
    • Snow gathering. Kneel on the ground, bend forward at your waist and spread your arms as wide as you can. Pull your arms inward through the snow, collecting as much as you can in your arms along the way. Lift your pile up to a tall kneeling position (on your knees with tall posture) and “make it rain” Lebron James-style. Repeat x 10
  • Giant set #3 (x3)
    Elf throwing snowballs

    Courtesy of www.sbnation.com.

    • Snowball rolling. Using your best squat and lift-from-the-ground position, start at your shoveled pile and begin making a giant snowball by squatting down and rolling the ball it forward as it picks up more snow. 10 squats + 10 forward snowball rolls (leave the ball, as the next two time you will return to it and pick up where you left off – soon you’ll have your base for your snowperson!)
    • Snowball throwing. Make Elf proud and launch 15 snowballs forward.  Take aim for something within 10 feet to start, and with each throw aim at something farther away.  Bonus points for accuracy.
    • Snowball chasing. Run through the snow for 30 seconds, carefully avoiding any sled-riders.
  • Cooldown
    • Return to the warmth of your home and have a glass of water.
    • Make a cup of hot cocoa.
    • Drink your hot cocoa, then proceed to enjoy the rest of your snow day!

Wishing you all the best in safety, health, and fitness on this wintry day!


P.S.  To all of my blog followers, I do sincerely apologize for how long it has been since my last post. Since September I have been working hard to build a new brand, “O-PA! Performance Academy”, and while doing so I aimed to share my time between my family and business-building. Don’t fret! As time allows, I’m still going to maintain SMftM as best as I can.  Thanks!

Any questions?  Feel free to email me.
Ryan Stevens, MPS, LAT/ATC, CSCS

10 Tests for Measuring Athletic and Functional Performance

“If you ain’t assessin’, you’re just guessin’!”  Tweet:
I cannot remember who I first heard this from, but I find it absolutely true. I’ve discovered that I’m a “fixer” by nature. Sometimes so much to a fault (just ask my wife!), I’m always re-evaluating things I come across daily to find ways to make them better. It could be my effectiveness and approach in dealing with a difficult challenge, my performance-training approach, my meatloaf recipe (and I make a MEAN meatloaf), or my dance moves in preparation for the next wedding I attend. Just as in life,  in athletic and functional performance if we aren’t checking to see where we currently are as compared to where we’ve been, how clear is our path to get to where we want to be. Yes, as performance coaches or rehab professionals we could just put everyone through a cookie-cutter program. How effective is that approach towards promoting client accountability, getting positive outcomes, and justifying the quality of service we provide? On the flip-side, if you are someone who is going through a fitness program, it’s important to reinforce your hard work and dedication by noting changes over time. Assess, then progress (or regress) as indicated.

Over the years I’ve learned through mentorship , self-development, and trial/error quite a few assessment and evaluation techniques for a multitude of measurable variables. In this blog, I’m going to share 10 easily-reproducible functional evaluation and/or athletic performance performance testing order, O-PA Performance Academy tests that I’m very fond of, all of which are highly justified both in research and in real-life observable outcomes. It is not the purpose of this blog to discuss how to address the findings of each test – that’s for a future blog! It’s also important to note that not all 10 of these tests need to conducted in one session, and that the sequence of conducting the tests is crucial to ensuring accurate results (see recommended testing sequence, per the National Strength and Conditioning Association). We must limit the chances of a negative residual effect on a subsequent test due to physical or energy system fatigue from the previous test. Keeping that in mind, here are your 10 functional /athletic performance assessment tools to try:

  1. Subjective/Objective Self-Assessment (Questionnaire, Body Measurements): Some sort of non-complex questionnaire is very helpful here. As a coach, the better your rapport is with your clients the more accurate and honest their responses will most likely be. Questions should include topics such as self-ratings on current mindset, satisfaction with current/previous program,  attainment of personal goals, and expression of both valued components of their program as well as areas they feel need to be enhanced. To compliment this questionnaire, a simple height, weight, body fat %, and body measurements assessment is great for monitoring progress as well.
  2. Posture Assessment: Make note of certain objective observations pertaining to posture. How does normal standing and sitting position look (neck, upper back, and lower back position/curves)? Is there  near-symmetry right vs left? Does one or both shoulder blades wing up when raising arms overhead or when pushing off of a wall? What is the observed foot and knee position in standing?  A quick scan from head to toe can tell you a whole lot.
  3. Functional Movement Screen/Biomechanical Analysis:  The Functional Movement Screen (FMS), developed by Gray Cook and his team of athletic training/physical therapy gurus, is a “screening tool used to identify limitations or asymmetries in seven fundamental movement patterns that are key to functional movement quality in individuals with no current pain complaint or known musculo-skeletal injury (www.functionalmovement.com).”  The purpose of this screen is to identify weak links, notable asymmetries, and faulty biomechanics – all of which can lead to increased risk of injury, decreased functional efficiency, and potentially decreased performance. This helps to direct corrective exercise prescription. The great thing about the FMS is that it is easily reproducible and demonstrates very high validity in consistency between the testers. To delve into movement analysis even deeper, there are some awesome video analysis tools out there which allow coaches to video-record and analyze sport-specific movements, running/jumping technique, and functional patterns in slow motion. This gives the opportunity to not only address inefficiencies noted in the movement, but also to provide visual sensory feedback to the person on the video (since we can neurocognitively process feedback we see much faster, with better retention, than when we only hear it). Pretty awesome stuff!

    Lateral Step Down Test

    (via www.fit-pro.com)

  4. Single-leg squat: While the FMS lets you screen squat and lunge patterns, one thing left out is strength and control in a single leg squat pattern. I’ve found that many times people can have a very good 2-legged squat, yet when you put them on 1 leg and have them try to squat, breakdowns occur in the kinetic chain. Problems such as knee valgus (buckling/rotating inward ) and heel rise/foot shift can indicate high risk of knee and ankle injury. I also see direct correlation between poor eccentric control of this motion and less than ideal deceleration quality in agilities.  This shows you any asymmetries between sides which may need to be addressed. I usually have the person perform 3-5 reps on a 12″ high step.
  5. Vertical Jump Tests – Double Vertical Jump (DVJ) for technique, Vertical Jump (VJ) for height: There are multiple purposes for using the DVJ or VJ tests. In addition to measuring lower extremity explosive power (how high you can jump), you can also objectively note the quality of take off, landing, and reversal rate of power.  Vertical jump height can be tested with a jump tower, using a force mat (such as the Just-Jump System that we have at O-PA! Performance Academy), or simply touching as high as you can on a wall. I love the VJ test – my scores weren’t too shabby back in the day. Maybe my goal should be to get back that 37″ vertical jump – I just need 6″ more!

    Unfortunately I can no-longer dunk.  But I can get it back one day!

    Unfortunately I can no-longer dunk. But I can get it back one day!

  6. Med Ball Chest Pass:  Using a weighted ball, it’s easy to assess upper body power, measuring how far the ball can be pushed away from you like a basketball pass.  A simple, reproducible test, I recommend performing seated or kneeling to eliminate compensation coming from the legs. The actual weight of the ball should be such that the test taker can move it at least somewhat fast. It probably goes without saying, but make sure to use the same weight consistently every time you re-test for accurate results.
  7. Acceleration and Agility testing: 10-Yard Sprint, Spider Test, & 5-10-5 Pro Agility:  The purpose of these tests is to demonstrate an athlete’s acceleration, quickness, and ability to change direction efficiently. With any agility or quickness test, the total time to complete should be very short, aiming for no longer than 5-15″ (go longer than 30″ at most and you are no longer testing the phosphogen energy system – or the “burst”). The 10 yard acceleration test is pretty self-explanatory – time it takes to run 10 yards straight ahead. The Spider Agility test as described by the NSCA involves running a timed star pattern (returning to the center after going to each point). I like to use 3 to 5 yard distances between cones with 8 cones, and have also toyed with versions involving drop steps and shuffles (the person has to face forward the entire test) to demonstrate actual game-like quickness over a variety of functional skills (like when playing defense). The 5-10-5 Pro Agility is the same test used by the NFL at their draft combine. It too is a very reliable tool to assess quickness, acceleration, change of direction quality, and lateral stability.

    5-10-5 pro agility

    5-10-5 Pro Agility Test

  8. Push-up/Pull-up Challenge:  It is what it sounds like. How many quality push- ups and/or pull-ups can you do in a certain amount of time. Note that if someone cannot perform a full pull-up unassisted, this test can be performed using assisted pull-ups with a superband or tubing. It’s all relative when comparing pre- to post-test numbers, as long as testing means is consistent. Typically the allotted time is 3 minutes or less. This is a great way to measure overall muscular endurance.
  9. Core Endurance testing (plank, side plank R & L, prone double leg raise):  Ah yes, that dreaded “PLANK”. Everyone loves to perform these tests with me – said no one ever. Well, OK, some people enjoy them. The tests are simple: hold a static neutral core position as long as you can until goal is reached, failure, or loss of proper form (I use >1 coaching correction needed). Four positions are used: plank on forearms, side plank on forearm on each side, and a prone double leg raise to horizontal off of a table/bench. These tests are based off of the thorough research of Dr. Stuart McGill, one of the world’s leading researchers on core stability and issues concerning the back. Based on his research, a healthy individual should be able to hold these for a minimum of 60″, ideally 90″. Measurements such as this correspond with significantly lower likelihood of back pain. He also noted that there should be within 5% symmetry when comparing all 4 sides. Note:  make sure to allow for recovery between each test.  I use a 1:1 work:rest ratio between tests, with the minimum rest being 1 minute. That’s even between side-plank sides.
  10. Sprint Endurance Testing: With sprint endurance testing, we are measuring both speed and the ability to maintain that speed for between 30 and 90 seconds (dependent on the level of athlete). Good examples of this would be a timed 300 meter run or a shuttle run with a minimum distance of 15 to 20 yards between reversals. Because of the added time it takes to complete, sprint endurance testing (or anaerobic endurance testing) assesses a different energy system within the body compared to short sprints and agility tests. Yes, even adults should work on improving their sprinting when possible. It’s an amazing total body calorie roaster and a powerful neuromuscular stimulus. Keep in mind, you need to progress your sprint training wisely to avoid injury.

Food for your mind: 10 tests for measuring athletic and/or functional performance, in both the athlete and those who would not consider themselves athletes. Because improvements can sometimes occur very quickly when guided by the correct coaching, these assessments do not always have to take place during an official testing session. Great performance coaches have a keen eye for assessing these tests and patterns on the fly during training sessions as well. In athletes, these are the findings that show you how far you’ve come and what you need to work on to get to the next level. In the latter, they are great tools for determining injury risk, proper progression of your fitness routine, and for reinforcing a sense of personal accomplishment! *Insert High Five!*

“If you ain’t assessin’, you’re just guessin’!”  Tweet:

Dominate those tests,